UN ICT agency asks world yoof, geeks for great tech ideas

Hefty cash prizes, free trips to Switzerland on offer

As part of its revamp, the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) is asking yoof and geeks to submit world-changing ideas, 60 of which will earn their entrants a trip to Geneva to pitch them to "industry leaders".

The competition is open to two groups: youths aged between 18 and 25, and geeks (who must be partnered with a non-profit organisation). Ideas must be described in 750 characters or less, though a picture is allowed, and the three entrants with the best ideas from each category will get 50,000 Swiss Francs split between them.

The ITU has been busy reinventing itself lately, becoming a lot more touchy-feely and working to improve its image as well as let people know what it does. The modern ITU, for example, has a Twitter feed and a Facebook page; it also has a new slogan apparently designed to upstage the Chocolate Factory in its glib arrogance:

ITU World logo - Do Good

The ITU is powerful. As the United Nations' "specialized agency for information and communication technologies", it is responsible for the standards that enable us to pick up a phone and connect to the other side of the world (and, arguably more importantly, to be accurately billed for it). It has been doing that since 1865 (predating the UN by some margin) but in recent years has struggled to appear relevant while being mired in traditions and procedures that appear arcane at best.

That's all to change, apparently, with ITU World now taking place annually and designed to appeal to the media (and sponsors), with events such as this competition to raise awareness and bring some new ideas to the international stage.

Right now those ideas include a social network for old people, software for monitoring Omega 3 consumption and an online depositary of educational e-books. In best Web 2.0-style the ideas can be voted up or down, and you can leave comments about the ideas of others if you can't think of any of your own. ®

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